When the two gun men attacked the offices of the French satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo last week, they shouted that they had avenged the publication’s insult to the Prophet. Had they stayed alive a little longer, they would have seen that their attack actually failed on every strategic level. They provoked further insult to the Prophet (if that’s what those cartoons are), they increased the circulation of the magazine that they loathed so very much, and they pushed countless ambivalent individuals into opposition to their ideals. The disaster is so vast that one can only say the jihadis would have been better off doing nothing at all.
The new edition of Charlie Hebdo has just hit the streets in France, and there are huge lines at every kiosk as people wait to get their hands on it. The usual print run for the magazine is 60,000, and about half of them actually sell. Today’s print run started at 1 million, was boosted to 3 million and before all is said and done will be 5 million. Each and every copy is likely to sell. On eBay, bidders are offering hundreds of dollars/euro for a single copy. Most of the purchasers are unlikely to have bought the magazine before, and outside of France, very few had probably ever heard of it. Bringing the title to the attention of the whole world in such a way that its sales rise by a factor of 50 cannot be counted a success.
Moreover as shown below, the cover features another image of the Prophet. Such images are frowned upon in Islamic society, and they were the basis for the attacks last week. If the idea was to prevent future representations of Islam’s founder, it failed. When one takes into consideration the fact that it actually increased the number of images, it failed spectacularly.
The great failure, however, was in the way the attack brought so many millions of people out of their complacency and into opposition to the attackers’ purpose. As this journal has noted, the idea behind the jihadi attacks is to create a response by the governments where attacks occur that are so draconian that the people turn to the jihadis for relief. This is the same strategy used by 19th century anarchists and 20th century would-be revolutionaries like Bader-Meinhoff, the Red Brigades and thy Symbionese Liberation Army. It failed in those cases because the people did not blame the governments for their responses but rather blamed the bomb-throwers for the provocations.
This is exactly what one sees in the west, and in France in particular. People are angry not at the governments but at the jihadis. Even in the Islamic neighborhoods of Paris, London and Munich the blame is falling on those who killed the journalists, the police and the shoppers. The polls show that “get tough on immigratant/Muslims” is resonating throughout Europe. The National Front just might win the presidency in the next French election.
The jihadis, of course, never thought that they would recruit non-Muslims with their attacks, but they genuinely believed that if governments do get tough enough, the Islamic populations in Europe will line up with them. History suggests they won’t any more than the down-trodden of Europe flocked to the banners of the Slavic anarchists or the Red Brigades. Worse for them is if they actually do adopt the jihadi stance. They are outnumbered badly, and there comes a point at which the state will fight back with all it has. That never ends well for the minority.
The supporters of the Caliphate may believe they have won a victory by silencing a few of their critics. In doing so, though, they merely created more critics. As Pyrrhus noted after his costly victory over Rome as Asculum, ï¿½”If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” For Romans, read cartoonists.